Sunday, June 25, 2006

File 1.60

We are perhaps au fait with the idea that the British Navy, the so-called "wooden walls of England", was at one time assembled from the totem species. We may equally recognize that oak trees were central to the construction of the Norse longboat, and the Viking's wider project of rape, pillage and civilization on the Atlantic littoral. But who would have thought that the inks used to fill da Vinci's notebooks, or to complete the line drawings and paintings of Duerer, Rembrandt and van Gogh, not to mention the score sheets of Bach, were all derived from an excrescent growth on oak trees caused by parasitic wasps? Oak galls, found especially on the Aleppo oak Quercus tinctoria, were the raw stuff of human letters for hundreds of years.

M. Cocker, "Westminster Hall from an acorn", TLS January 13 2006, p.6


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